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History of 49th NBA Draft Pick

The Grizzlies hold the 49th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and while there aren’t likely to be any superstars available at that point in the draft, the last decade has proven that solid role players have emerged from Pick 49. Take a look at some notable 49ers of the 21st century who’ve gone on to become solid contributors in the NBA.

2000: Jason Hart, Milwaukee Bucks
Regular season stats: 4.8 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 15.5 minutes in 341 games (56 starts)
Playoffs stats: 1.6 points, 0.3 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 6.0 minutes in 23 games

Hart is what some might call a “journeyman,” having played for eight teams in nine seasons over the course of his career. While that term generally comes with a negative connotation, Hart embraced his role as a solid backup point guard and spot starter on some quality teams. Grizzlies fans with particularly good memories may recall Hart fulfilling such a duty for the San Antonio Spurs in the 2004 NBA Playoffs, when the Spurs ended Memphis’ first-ever postseason appearance in four games thanks in small part to Hart’s 16 points in 41 minutes in relief of Tony Parker. Despite playing just one game with the team that drafted him (Milwaukee), Hart enjoyed successful stints with the Kings and Clippers and had a career-year with the expansion Charlotte Bobcats in 2004-05, posting 9.5 points and 5.0 assists as a backup to current Grizzlies broadcaster Brevin Knight.

2003: James Jones, Indiana Pacers
Regular season stats: 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 18.9 minutes in 447 games (73 starts)
Playoff stats: 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 19.6 minutes in 64 games

The best way for a player picked late in the draft to stick around in the NBA? Do one thing really, really well. James Jones has followed that model, hitting over 40 percent from behind the arc in his eight-year career—and it’s landed him in this year’s NBA Finals. Jones’ three-point abilities helped Miami weather the storm when Mike Miller went down early in the season and have been an asset to the Pacers, Suns and Trail Blazers prior to his return to his hometown to play for the Heat. The Grizzlies are glad to see Jones playing in the Eastern Conference again, where he’s hit just 3-of-17 (.176) from distance in seven games against Memphis as a member of the Pacers and Heat compared to 25-of-47 (.532) in eight games with the Trail Blazers and Suns.

2005: Andray Blatche, Washington Wizards
Regular season stats: 10.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 22.6 minutes in 383 games (163 starts)
Playoff stats: 3.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.1 assists in 14.3 minutes in eight games.

The cream of the 49th pick crop over the last few seasons, Blatche has developed into a cornerstone piece for the rebuilding Wizards, improving on his per game averages in points, rebounds, assists and steals in each of his six seasons in the league. The 24-year-old signed an extension in Washington prior to the 2010-11 season and proceeded to deliver career highs of 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals, helping to solidify himself as a member of the Wizards’ core. As is often the case late in the draft, Blatche took some time to fully grasp the NBA game—especially considering he came right from high school—and honed his skills in the D-League as a rookie. Now, there’s no telling where his ceiling is as he continues to progress alongside 2010 No. 1 overall pick John Wall.  

2006: Leon Powe, Denver Nuggets
Regular season stats: 6.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 13.9 minutes in 239 games (19 starts)
Playoff stats: 4.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.1 assists in 9.9 minutes in 32 games

If the Grizzlies need another example of a successful 49th overall pick, they need not long any further than their own locker room, where Leon Powe continues his career as a solid role player on winning teams. Prior to providing the Grizzlies with another big body in the stretch run this season, Powe won a championship ring with the Boston Celtics in 2008 (Boston acquired his draft rights from Denver in 2006) before playing with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers the following season. Though hindered by knee injuries throughout his career, Powe has maintained his aggressiveness in the paint, as evidenced by his 5.5 points in just 8.8 minutes per game with the Grizzlies this season. A veteran by default on the young Grizzlies team, Powe packed a scoring punch when called upon off the bench and was one of many high character guys in the locker room—a necessity for late draft picks looking to carve out an NBA career.

2007: Aaron Gray, Chicago Bulls
Regular season stats: 3.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 11.4 minutes in 190 games (25 starts)
Playoff stats: 2.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 12.0 minutes in eight games

After four solid years at Pittsburgh, Gray fell to 49th in the draft because many NBA teams tend to make selections based on potential rather than production. Theoretically, the longer a player stays in school, the less potential he has to improve. Gray’s NBA career hasn’t dispelled that notion, but he is an example of a player whose production is overlooked simply because he isn’t going to develop into a 20-10 guy anytime soon. What he is, though, is a consistent seven-footer who can play physical basketball off the bench on any given night. After playing that part for a couple years in Chicago, Gray has done the same in New Orleans. Due to a late-season injury to David West, the Hornets relied on Gray to log significant action in their playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers. In the two games won by New Orleans, Gray combined for 19 points off 8-of-8 shooting in 35 minutes. Not bad for the 49th pick.


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